This popular vacation takes you through the heart of Central Europe. Starting and ending in Frankfurt, spend two overnights each in Berlin, Warsaw, Kraków, Budapest, and Prague. See Germany’s major cities, including the one-time intellectual hub of Weimar; reunified Berlin; and Munich, the lively Bavarian capital. From Germany, it’s on to the highlights of Poland: charming Poznan, magnificent Warsaw, the historic Jasna Góra monastery, the Auschwitz concentration camp, and romantic Kraków. As you travel to Hungary, admire the majestic Tatra Mountains and pass through some of the most scenic parts of Slovakia. The legendary Danube welcomes you to Budapest with Buda Castle, Fishermen’s Bastion, and Matthias Coronation Church. Austria’s capital of Vienna beckons next, the elegant city known for the waltz, delectable pastries, and awe-inspiring Habsburg palaces. On to Prague with its Charles Bridge, Jewish Quarter, and world-famous Astronomical Clock. Head through the Bohemian Forest into Bavarian Munich, and along the Romantic Road with the fairytale villages of Nördlingen and Rothenburg, medieval jewels with traditional 16th-century, half-timbered houses.
Day #1 Arrive in Frankfurt, Germany. Check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free. Tonight, meet your Tour Director and fellow travelers.
Day #2 Frankfurt–Weimar–Berlin. Northeast today using the Autobahn for a stop in Weimar, one-time intellectual heart of Germany and host to such luminaries as Luther, Cranach, Bach, Liszt, Schiller, and, of course, Goethe himself. It was at one time rightly known as the “Athens of Germany.” Journey past Jena, home to the world-famous Zeiss Optics Factory. Over the River Elbe for a few more miles into Germany’s capital city, Berlin. (B)
Day #3 Berlin. On this morning's included guided tour, learn how the city is no longer divided but every bit as fascinating. Once the city of contrasts with its West and East side separating two different worlds, since the wall came down, Berlin has developed into a harmonious blend of old and new. It has preserved the old buildings, such as the State Opera House and the Brandenburg Gate, its neoclassic-style boulevards such as the Kurfürstendamm and Unter den Linden, as well as created brand new buildings in the most daring up-to-date architectural styles. It is once again Germany’s capital and one of Europe most lively and interesting cities, from a cultural point of view. In the afternoon, there's an optional excursion to historic Potsdam. (B)
Day #4 Berlin–Poznan, Poland–Warsaw. Drive east to Poznan, one of Poland’s oldest trading centers and now an international marketplace during its industrial fairs. See more of the Polish countryside on the way to Warsaw. (B,D)
Day #5 Warsaw. The included sightseeing tour is an excellent introduction to Warsaw, magnificently reconstructed after wartime destruction. Today its wide avenues contrast strikingly with the narrow lanes of the old section. (B)
Day #6 Warsaw–Jasna Góra–Auschwitz–Kraków. Two encounters with history on your southbound journey today. First, Jasna Góra near Czestochowa, the monastery that withstood the repeated onslaught of overwhelming Swedish forces during the religious wars of the 17th century. Since then, its Black Madonna is venerated as the “Queen of Poland” and has become the country’s national symbol. In the afternoon, visit what is left of the Auschwitz concentration camp, a chilling reminder of the Holocaust. Evening arrival in Kraków. (B,D)
Day #7 Kraków. This is, they say, Poland’s most beautiful city. For almost 500 years it was the country’s capital, and today it is without a doubt its cultural capital. Optional morning sightseeing in ancient Krakow, for centuries the residence of Polish kings. See the Market Square, the Jewish Quarter, St. Mary’s Church, and Wawel Cathedral. Free time later to explore this interesting town at your own pace and mingle with the locals. Tonight’s optional folklore dinner might be the way to round off your stay in this city. (B)
Day #8 Kraków–Budapest, Hungary. A comfortable drive through three countries. First, south to the Tatra Mountains of Poland, then through a scenic part of Slovakia, and finally into Hungary. Your destination is Budapest, the most lively of Eastern European capitals. (B,D)
Day #9 Budapest. Included sightseeing features Buda Castle, which dominates the twin cities of Buda and Pest, separated by the broad ribbon of the Danube. Also see Heroes’ Square, which typifies the modern capital, as well as the old inns and wine cellars along the riverbank, Parliament, Margaret Island, Fishermen’s Bastion, the Royal Castle, and Matthias Coronation Church. (B)
Day #10 Budapest–Vienna, Austria. Head for the Austrian border by way of Györ. You’ll be in Vienna in time to enjoy your first afternoon and evening in this lively capital. Enjoy the included sightseeing tour with a Local Guide: the State Opera, Parliament, and the Town Hall. Stop for a stroll in Heroes’ Square to view the Hofburg and an inside visit of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. (B)
Day #11 Vienna–Prague, Czech Republic. Morning optional excursion to Schönbrunn Palace. This afternoon, cross the Czech border into Moravia, then through the rich farmlands of Bohemia to Prague. (B,D)
Day #12 Prague. The wealth of gothic and baroque architecture perhaps inspired Dvorak and Smetana, both Prague composers. The included guided sightseeing features landmarks such as the Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge, and the Old Town Square with the Astronomical Clock. Your Tour Director may suggest an evening optional excursion with traditional Czech music and spectacular entertainment. (B)
Day #13 Prague–Munich, Germany. Into the landscape of the Bohemian Forest before reaching the Czech-German border. Drive south, enjoying the Bavarian scenery, to Munich, the “Secret Capital,” for an orientation drive. (B)
Day #14 Munich–Nördlingen–Rothenburg–Frankfurt Area. The highlight today is undoubtedly the Romantic Road, which runs north to south as far as the Alps. First to lovely medieval Nördlingen, then Rothenburg with its ramparts and towers, cobblestone streets, and 16th-century houses, before heading towards the Frankfurt area. (B,D)
Day #15 Frankfurt Area. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)